Kano, part 2: A communication tool

This is a cross-post from my original blog, where I discuss a variety of topics around product management and technology.

In my previous post, I introduced the concept of Kano and some new vocabulary: basic expectations, performance needs, and delighters. It’s that vocabulary that helps PMs communicate with one another — and executives — more effectively.

I’ll give you an example. I’ve worked on products that have been mission critical to the business, and where you basically need to meet all basic expectations on your first release before users can change their process and adopt your technology as a replacement. Delighters were integrations between other products in that user’s value chain. For example, automatically recognizing and parsing a data export from a Bloomberg terminal, or automatically publishing meeting events to a cross-team dashboard.

I’ve also worked on products that competed in mature markets, and where delighter features from one competitor would only have a lifetime of ~6 months before being picked up by the rest of the market or becoming basic RFP requirements.

When I first presented Kano, it was in a quarterly product review. I was explaining some changes to the market over the past 3 months and much of it had changed our internal definition of basic expectations. What it also allowed me to do was map “how we win” to performance expectations of the product, something we didn’t (yet) get a chance to discuss.

Kano took a team of rookie PMs from saying “competitor X has <this>” and “customer wants <high quality>” to a conservation about use cases and job, pain, and gains (more on this later).

The lesson here is PM teams need to have a common vocabulary. The idea of basic expectations and delighters are important jargon, especially when making investment decisions or communicating “what you’re doing” to a cross functional team of PMs or execs.

Kano is an effective tool for training PMs to communicate — it can be used for decision making, but in today’s world you need more data than a Kano framework to make a decision. My next post will be on ways to extract this data from your prospects and customers (yes, after I discuss the “JPG” framework.)